Pago woman in Japan-U.S. teacher exchange
American Samoa native, Victoria Coffin, a teacher at Keone’ula Elementary School in Ewa Beach, Hawai’i, has been selected from among a national pool of more than 300 educators to participate in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange program under Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
This program is hosted by the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan) and Coffin was in San Francisco from Apr. 29 to May 2 for part one of the two-part program. Part one is a conference with Japanese teachers and part two of the bi-nationally fully-funded program includes a study tour of Japan from June 19 to July 2.
“I am extremely pleased to be a part of this fully-funded teacher exchange program,” said Coffin via e-mail from Hawai’i responding to Samoa News questions last Friday. “Being the only teacher from Hawaii to participate in this program this year is definitely an honor.”
She explained that the Japan and U.S teacher exchange for ESD program has really opened up doors for her.
“Not only has it allowed me to communicate with educators nationally, but also internationally. The knowledge gained from these conversations and discussions has allowed me to reflect on my own teaching,” she said. “After finding out more about the program in San Francisco, I am excited to go to Japan with 23 other educators, and meet up with our Japanese counterparts.”
“While there, I hope to experience the Japanese culture and visit the various historical sites, like the Peace Memorial Park - the site of the atomic bomb - in Hiroshima, Japan,” she said this week. “More so, I hope to gain a better understanding of sustainable development amongst the various schools we will be visiting and raise awareness about these concepts.”
Asked what she hopes to gain from this program, and especially from the trip to Japan, Coffin said: “First, I hope to gain a better understanding of sustainability and how it is being incorporated in schools throughout Japan and the US. I have started a native garden at my school and am looking into creating an aquaponics system.”
“From this experience, I also hope to form relationships with the various participants. I would love to share information on our teaching practices and curriculum and maybe even connect students from one part of the world to another,” she said. “I hope that this collaboration will open a window into the lives of students in Japan and the US.”
“Lastly, I hope that this partnership will lead to a bond amongst the different educators from Japan and US. Hopefully we can begin a sister city program between my school and schools in Japan and US,” she said.
Coffin is from Pago Pago; her mother is Faa’aliga Vaisagote Coffin and her father is Thomas H. Coffin. She graduate in 2003 from Samoana High School and attended Chaminade University in Hawai’i where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 2007 as well as a Masters in Education in 2010.
Asked if she had any other comments about the benefits of this program, Coffin said, “this program has allowed me to be more open-minded and to be a risk-taker. I have learned a lot about the Japanese culture and even a few phrases in preparation for my trip.”
“I will be staying with a host family in Japan for two days and during these days I will experience a true, Japanese culture. I can’t wait to be immersed into the Japanese culture this summer and then share my experiences with my colleagues,” she added.
A national news release by the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission says this program aims to deepen mutual understanding and strengthen the relationship between Japan and the United States, as well as to raise awareness of ESD-oriented school programs and enhance ESD-related curricula in both countries.